Data is a solution to worker shortages

By Glen Ocsko | 09 November 2021

We have recently felt the effects of the HGV driver shortage across the UK. From dry petrol stations to empty supermarket shelves, the lack of qualified staff needed to keep our supply chains connected has heavily impacted the day-to-day lives of businesses and the public.

One area where the effects of the driver shortages may have been felt, but are perhaps less talked about, is the public sector, particularly by local authorities. Like many businesses, councils rely on HGV operators to provide services including waste management, bin collections and the delivery of goods, all of which are vital to keeping communities clean and functioning.

However, unlike companies, local authorities have the added disadvantage of struggling to financially compete with the private sector. Cuts and limited budgets mean that businesses are often able to offer more lucrative wages and benefits to drivers.

In the midst of worker shortages and limited financial capabilities, local government bodies need to develop and implement innovative solutions that can help make sure services are still able to function, even in challenging environments.

The answer’s in the data

In many cases, councils already hold the solution to address these challenges. The answer lies in their data. The problem is being able to access it. Local authorities have in their hands vast swathes of information on the services they provide. If analysed and used in the right way, it can create much more efficient, streamlined and effective processes to help address challenges such as worker shortages.

Councils have detailed information on the routes their bin lorries take, when they usually arrive at certain points, and how long each route takes to complete. If this data was properly collected and analysed, patterns and errors could be identified and addressed, such as creating faster travel routes, or spotting where bins can be fitted with IoT sensors so they can be collected less often. This would lead to bin collection services and resources being used more effectively, including by reducing the need for drivers.

Tech and knowledge are the key

However, analysing data to improve services requires more than just looking at figures on a computer screen. Councils also need to make sure they have the right technologies and people in place to understand how to use this information and identify patterns. Platforms that can collect vast amounts of data in a centralised place, such as a data lake, while also implementing technologies that can gather real-time data, such as route monitors and smart bins, will help to collect the information needed to streamline services.

Choosing the right technology to deliver specific results can be a difficult or confusing process, which is where digital partners can help. By working with organisations that understand the technical requirements and know what technologies can provide them, councils can implement platforms that produce immediate and meaningful results. At the same time, local authorities should work with digital partners that offer more than simply identifying and implementing data platforms. They should also work with companies that can provide their teams with the training and knowledge of how to use these technologies effectively and analyse the data they provide. This will mean that councils will be able to identify problems and implement solutions in-house, rather than spending public money on third parties who need to come in and help them harness their data.

The HGV shortage has highlighted the risks that businesses and services are under when unexpected challenges occur, and this is no different for the public sector. With ever-tightening budgets, councils need to think innovatively and creatively about how they can mitigate the damages caused by things such as the limited availability of drivers, and harnessing data and technology is one way to do this. By working with digital partners who can help them understand and implement data solutions, and share knowledge on how to effectively use them, local authorities can make sure that services are running as efficiently as possible, helping to protect them when challenges arise, while guaranteeing they produce value for money and the best service possible to citizens.

Glen Ocsko is head of local government at Made Tech

@madetech

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